Filed under: Affect Theory, Attachment, Belonging, Craziness, Detachment theory, Encounters, Love, Mood, non-sovereignty, Ordinariness, pedagogy, poetry, Politics, supervalent_thought, Theory of this Blog, writing | Tags: Berlant, comedy, cruel_optimism, experiment, female_complaint, Katie_Stewart, poetry, writing
A few posts ago I mentioned exploring experiments in observation and form, with Katie Stewart, in a project called The Hundreds. Two of them have just been published in the experimental journal TAG. You can download them there. Here they are, for the record, though: and this way I can revise them as I refine the project over time.
Abusive Encounters for the Revolution
1. I take writing classes because art that says it loves women hates women and it can’t be undone by theory. Any “story about a woman who” is doomed to be but a laugh. As in love, though, a body can have an episode that savages the story-spectacle shackle, blazoning a freedom for which there’s no world yet and bad luck in the one that is. Bette Davis fires gestures, Cate Blanchet lunges into panorama–and then there’s the Mahalia Jackson incident. Insist on the upshot of the encounter. I have deleted five instances of the word “really” from this hundred.
2. A colleague’s combover is a living crop circle whose origin might just reveal the hand of god. His club sandwich of shame and contempt is braced by the sourdough toast of xo’s. After I ate one I blistered in hives and slept hard for two days in a Benadryl haze. I now have spontaneous “episodes.” O love, we know that the fidelity principle makes details inconvenient. O love, your history is only and always one of collateral damage. But what is it when no love is there or lost? It is as though analogy can force itself into full-bore likeness.
3. On a street corner I was accosted by a homeless mind. It pressured me for housing; I gestured a vomit. Having found no time to invent an intention, I am now bound eternally to a failed reparation. Aristotle says debt is material and moral and Nietzsche says this way debt can’t be retired. As Arendt says, there is no unsaying. Philosophers of the desert make aloneness less lonely. I aspire to deadpan femininity. An anorexia of the encounter would be a gift card allowing for sadism and the feeling of smallness to sift through like flies that shimmy through screens. (more…)
Filed under: Affect Theory, ambivalence, Attachment, Belonging, Craziness, Detachment theory, economy, Encounters, Love, Mood, optimism, sexuality, sovereignty, supervalent_thought, teaching, Theory of this Blog, trauma, writing | Tags: Foucault, Fred_Moten, Harryette_Mullen, Joshua_Clover, Juliana_Spahr, Katie_Stewart, Keston_Sutherland, Lacan, Lee_Edelman, Wittgenstein
The Hundreds: Method 2x
The game is a form of life coming into being, extension, and activity, the blinking open at the start of the day and the beyond to anything that was explained. If I run out of gas but not out of love, if you let a piece go without completion, if the session isn’t finished but definitively over, if the delicious coffee could only wake us forever, if we could come forth as “I” with the other objects, if we would take in that all things don’t happen for a reason, if the flat voice were other than contract or trauma. If we could be the person we would go out with again, if we could hoist our accusations against ourselves, if I could stop motion sugar and labor power, if we could feel the chance touch with soft eyes and no ducking, if you can bear the arbitrary, if they can bear the common structure, or vomit, or accident, if we could take the hard hit that it’s all brevity and struggle, if the form of life turned toward a way of life, sidestepping this event and that one’s tough but only seeming infinity. Sometimes things have to be forced.
(Lee Edelman, Juliana Spahr, Keston Sutherland, Katie Stewart, Lynn Hejinian, Fred Moten, Joshua Clover, Lacan, Foucault, Wittgenstein, Harryette Mullen, Catherine Malabou)
Filed under: Affect Theory, Attachment, Belonging, Craziness, Love, Mood, Ordinariness, Politics, supervalent_thought, Theory of this Blog, trauma, writing | Tags: breast_cancer, Clare_Pentecost, ekphrasis, Frank_O'Hara, Jasbir_Puar, poetry
Tit Variations (for Claire Pentecost)
1. Sketched on your wall, “Three women wearing the same pair of breasts” does time like a caveman artist relic. The various faces above the breasts bear yet withhold their statements.
2. Nakedness never fails to shock: the bared chest prompts a snap reaction and a quick shift up to the face clogs hearing.
3. Breasts, in short, compete with the face, with its demand for recognition. Nipples look back without seeing. They refuse love’s demand for a shot’s reverse shot; they judge with a cat’s flat Jack Benny eyes. Deadpan smacks the gaze like desire does, or like bad news.
Filed under: Affect Theory, Attachment, Belonging, Craziness, Detachment theory, economy, Encounters, Love, Mood, Ordinariness, poetry, Theory of this Blog, writing | Tags: Christopher_Bollas, David_Shields, Elspeth_Probyn, Hannah_Arendt, Juliana_Spahr, Katie_Stewart, Leo_Bersani, Lorelei_Sontag
Try to forget.
Not unintentional forgetting, but of a thing that insists on being in the flow of things.
It could be the forgetting of a dream you can’t stop because you’re in it, or of a sense that the world is converging over there, on that other guy’s table. All of history did not do its work to produce you. You can imagine that history sought to produce you, but who are you? A bundle of action and feral muttering, a sweet thing inhaled by various strangers, booty for money, a small bird puffing out its chest, a bit scared, an accident.
Or it could be of the angry surprise that again you want a thing you can’t have without help. (more…)
Filed under: Attachment, Belonging, Craziness, depression, Detachment theory, emotion, Encounters, Love, Mood, non-sovereignty, optimism, Ordinariness, sexuality, supervalent_thought, Theory of this Blog | Tags: aesthetics, Aimee_Mann, Attachment, Barbara_Browning, conceptual_art, dreams, Gil-Scott_Heron, Kate_Lilley, Kathleen_Stewart, Love, sexuality, writing
3. What is the wish of the dream?
I open my hand and a small cluster of people peer up at me out of it silent and bug-eyed. I draw them out of my palm like taffy, but there is no snapping sound and no lost teeth. In a minute the crowded room buzzes harshly, wondering why it had bothered one more time to show up for nothing but an exhausted optimism. I was lucky to be the dreamer because the dreamer never stops being interested. People know when they haven’t said enough, that’s why they dream. Or that’s not why they dream, but why they continue loving.
When I met him he was raking leaves, in his tiny yard; usually they’re across some table in a room. And what of the very bald one who practices his Foucault Face™ in the mirror each day? If I try to write the story of someone who worked hard in case he showed up to work, what is the plot? She played touch tag by saying a thing then running into a field of noise. The delay architecture is so deliberate I can feel the shot-reverse-shot, the voiceover, and the signs of truth tattooed on my often-entered vagina. (more…)
Filed under: affect, Affect Theory, Detachment theory, Encounters, Love, Mood, non-sovereignty, optimism, Ordinariness, pedagogy, psychoanalysis, Theory of this Blog, writing | Tags: adults, affect, children, Lydia_Davis, memory, psychoanalysis, things, writing
1. The Test
There’s a can of blueberries at the back of the shelf amid dust and flour mites or whatever it is that gets into the rice, like an old writing file where you made a deposit in the darkness of a late style. As though berries too syrupy even for ice cream and the cheesecakes your mother never got to make were just waiting around for you to be found, like that child in the game. (more…)
Filed under: affect, Affect Theory, Attachment, Belonging, Craziness, emotion, Love, Mood, non-sovereignty, optimism, pedagogy, poetry, psychoanalysis, sexuality, Theory of this Blog, writing | Tags: Adam_Phillips, Ariana_Reines, Attachment, Bollas, Derrida, Love, Nancy, psychoanalysis, shattered_love, teaching, writing
Delaminated from week 1 lecture notes, Love Theory (Winter 2012)…
I am a love theorist. I sometimes feel dissociated from all my loves. I sometimes ask them to hold more of an image of me than I can hold. By “sometimes” I mean all the times. The image is the regressed form, not the narrative noise that comes later to try to apply adhesive to the fantasy and its representation in objects, so that I know I am an event that lives in the world. The love and the images available for it are in a Thunderdome death-love match, yet we act as though affect could be held within a steady-state space like meat on a hook, or the image of meat on a hook, since actual meat turns green. Most storage lockers are cold enough to slow down that decay, as we know from narrative and domesticity. Aggressions and tenderness pop around in me without much of a thing on which to project blame steadily or balance an idealization. So it’s just me and phantasmagoric noise that only sometimes feels like a cover song for a structuring shape or an improv around genre. In love I’m left holding the chaos bag and there is no solution that would make these things into sweet puzzle pieces. See Phillips’ reading of attachment as the drive to return to the taste of another person: the “sweetness” love stands for binds itself to an infinity of objects and plots and strategies for investing the scene with a worthiness matching our intensity of a need for its nourishment. This is why, perhaps too, Laplanche uses the word “metabolize.”
This is a philosophical “I”. I don’t feel like using “we,” because I fall into the banality pit when I do. (See Derrida on film on love. He should have trusted his first instinct to say nothing, since what he says is nothing, but he was being a good boy, and trying to maintain his availability for the interviewer’s idealization, the death in life of the call and response: he was trying to be loveable. Maybe the phrases one offers as gifts are the best love because they metarecognize the demand for love in any call: but, in itself, the professor’s discourse is not an opening to the other’s inconvenience, and it is not love if it is not opened to that.) (more…)
Filed under: affect, ambivalence, Attachment, Belonging, Craziness, Detachment theory, emotion, Encounters, Love, Mood, non-sovereignty, optimism, Ordinariness, pedagogy, psychoanalysis, sexuality, sovereignty, supervalent_thought, Theory of this Blog, writing | Tags: Bloomingdales, Camera_Obscura, cigarettes, femininity, french-wrap, high_heels, mother's_day, nominalism
I noticed, over the last few months, as my mother was dying, that I had taken pictures that seemed very specific. Now I am looking at the archive, as one looks at a drying hand after a manicure.
My mother died of femininity. I told her that I would say this about her. She had said, “Will you write a book about me?” and I asked if she wanted me to. She said “Yes. I want you to say that I left the world a better place because I had you!” I said I thought that this was a bad idea: people would think it an excuse to write about me. She said, “Can you think of another topic?” I offered this phrase about femininity, and explained why. My brother-in-law thought that it would be better to say that my mother died from vanity rather than from femininity. I can see why he would prefer that story; it’s interesting to see how a label shifts the implication.
In her late teens she took up smoking, because it was sold as a weight-reduction aid. When she died she had aggressive stage 4 lung cancer. In her teens she started wearing high heels, to enhance the back arch and ass-to-calves posture whose strut transforms the whole body to a sexual tableau, shifting between teetering and stillness. Later, she had an abortion and on the way out tripped down the stairs in those heels, hurting her back permanently. Decades later, selling dresses at Bloomingdale’s, she was forced to carry, by her estimate, 500 lbs. of clothes each day. Shop girls, you know, are forced to dress like their customers. They have to do this to show that they understand the appropriate universe of taste, even while working like mules in that same universe, carrying to their ladies stacks of hanging things and having to reorganize what their ladies left behind on the dressing room floor. She liked this job, because she liked being known as having good taste.
Filed under: affect, Affect Theory, Attachment, Belonging, emotion, Love, Mood, non-sovereignty, Ordinariness, Politics, potentiality, psychoanalysis, sexuality, supervalent_thought, Theory of this Blog, writing | Tags: affect, drama, emotion, theatre
The fantasy of a common sense, a sense of a capacity or of something affectively general at the core of democracy, is not necessarily sentimental. But the drive to create a more capacious democratic sensorium so often tips into intimacy’s sentimental vernacular that its placeholder status as conceptual magnet, not origin or experience, is very hard to discipline–and the drive to discipline it is the source of so much social theory. The local occasion of this post is the Theatre Oobleck production of There Is a Happiness That Morning Is. The play, riffing on Blake’s Songs of Innocence and Experience, was classic Oobleck: noisy, vital, and entirely intentional. There wasn’t a supervalent moment in it, which was an achievement of sorts, since it is about love and fucking and freedom and lyric poetry and death, and how they shape profound scenes of self-encounter that reveal enigmas of suffering and impaired autonomy at the heart of ordinary intimacy. But it was unsatisfying, because it aimed to be too satisfying: the writing overdramatized every emotion, including disbelief, as though to color within the lines must amount to blackening an entire page. In this it was exemplary of so much aesthetic and theoretical work that works over the emotions, attempting to drown out the affects and to claim that when we are authentic we feel one known thing at a time.
The problem of writing about this play is that any substantive discussion of it will make it more wonderful than any minute of seeing it. This is what critical engagement does: it adds value through staging interest that’s been magnetized to a form. It converts the event of form into a situation. In reading with a thing a transitional environment emerges that changes what attention can attend to. The encounter makes change prehensible, resonating toward a leavening sense of a concept whose potentiality is virtually affirmed even if the encounter itself fails to have much afterlife. But what I am trying to do is to think about the downsides of potentiality modes when they are tethered to a simplifying desire for emotions already normatively held in common to provide a foundation for (aesthetic or political) transformation.
Filed under: affect, Affect Theory, Belonging, Craziness, economy, Encounters, Love, Mood, non-sovereignty, Ordinariness, potentiality, psychoanalysis, queerness, sexuality, sovereignty, supervalent_thought, Theory of this Blog | Tags: Attachment, gesture, Lingis, mumblecore, Sara_Ahmed, structure_of_feeling, _Greenberg_
Remember the time I told you about the day I took a vacation from work during which time I watched a movie I needed to watch for work about a man who was taking an extended vacation from work as a way of life but who was redeemed from lifelessness by a woman who embodied a younger generation’s practice of diffused ambition, so that a baffling heterosexual tendency could be saved for another day and the confrontation with not understanding the lover, oneself, labor, or what “a life” is could be delayed and preserved in a sweet promise not to give up on sick dogs and to hang around for whatever potential whiff of relief might emanate from anywhere?
Maybe mumblecore is right, that all life needs is a “whatever” at the points where it seems impossible—a gesture of optimism that can’t bear a lot, but that can indicate an otherwise that could become the something stacked right above the nothing. Life, friends, is gestural. We must not say so. A gesture is the performance of contact that makes a conjuncture of the abstract and the immediate. Contact is a potential anchor, a movement that makes a moment stick or become passable, sometimes shaped toward the possible. Those haps can be a mere flicker or can build into atmospheres and environments for affective, imaginative, and politically collective activity, whether or not we pay attention to them. In the next few posts I’m going to engage some different ways of mediating contact’s gestural structuration of affect, its presentation of an opportunity to encounter the affective event. The aim is to brainstorm some extensions of the “structure of feeling” concept toward different aspects of the sensus communis that will undergird my next two books. (more…)